The US state of Florida is seeking a Supreme Court ruling on a controversial social media law that bars platforms from banning political candidates
Florida has asked the US Supreme Court to rule on a controversial social media law, in a move that has pushed America’s relationship with the First Amendment into the spotlight.
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in May 2021 signed a controversial government bill targeting social networking companies, and how they manage online content.
This Florida bill was the first time a US state has enacted such legislation, and it actually requires social networking companies like Facebook and Twitter to only suspend the accounts of political candidates for 14 days for content violations.
This came after Twitter, Facebook and YouTube banned former President Donald Trump (resident of Florida) for his role in inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, killing five people (including a police officer who was beaten to death). ).
Bill SB 7072 signed by Ron DeSantis essentially bans tech platforms from suspending or banning political candidates in the state, with potential fines of $250,000 per day if the canceled syllabus is seeking statewide office, and $25,000 On the day if the candidate is running for non-state office.
The legislation also gives Florida residents the ability to sue tech companies for overturning the statute.
Almost immediately, the tech industry responded and a lawsuit was filed in June 2021 by several trade groups against SB 7072.
Both business groups have invited Florida law a ‘blatant attack’ on First Amendment rights of private companies, and alleged that the law was unconstitutional and in violation of federal law.
Then, earlier this year, a federal appeals court agreed that SB 7072 had violated the First Amendment rights of private companies, and suspended it.
Now this week, just days after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis discovered collecting immigrants in Texas using questionable tactics, then shipping them to Martha’s Vineyard — a move that some legal experts have claimed could be interpreted as ‘human trafficking’, the state of Florida has revealed They are seeking a ruling on SB 7072 from the US Supreme Court.
CNN reported that In a court filing on Wednesday, the Florida attorney general argued that the dominance of major social media platforms and their ability to promote the opinions of some users over others meant it was critical for judges to consider the case.
The petition stated that “the question whether the First Amendment prevents states—and perhaps the federal government as well—from meaningfully addressing these distortions must be answered by this Court, and must be answered now.”
According to CNN, mainstream legal experts have said that if SB 7072 survives the legal challenge, tech companies may be forced to host spam, hate speech and other legal but problematic material on their platforms. It could also rewrite decades of the First Amendment precedent that prevented governments from forcing private parties to host the speech, they said.
In a statement on Wednesday, NetChoice — a competitor to Florida law — said it welcomed the Florida petition.
“We agree with Florida that this case should be heard by the US Supreme Court, and we are confident that the First Amendment rights will be upheld,” CNN quoted Carl Szabo, NetChoice’s vice president and general counsel, as saying. “We look forward to seeing Florida in court and upholding the lower court’s decision. We have 200 years of precedent on our part.”
It’s worth noting that Florida isn’t alone, as the Republican governor of Texas copied Florida’s move and signed HB 20 into Texas law in September 2021.
In essence, Texas HB 20 prohibits social media companies (defined as having 50 million monthly active users and primarily based on user-generated content) from blocking, demonizing, or otherwise restricting content (which is usually prohibited) on the basis of “the view of the user or any other person”, whether or not that view is expressed on the Platform itself.
HB 20 also requires social media companies to disclose how they promote and modify content and to authorize transparency reports, similar to those already produced by Facebook, Google, and others.
It gives Texas officials or local residents the power to sue the social media company over moderation decisions.
In May of this year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an application by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to reside in NetChoice (Corporate Free Speech Champion) and CCIA (Computer and Communications Industry Association) versus Texas AG Paxton.
The case then headed to the US Supreme Court for its ruling, which temporarily prevented Texas law from working while litigation continued.
But last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to uphold the Texas law, which contradicts an Eleventh Circuit ruling earlier this year that deemed the Florida law unconstitutional.
This division in the Circuit increases the likelihood of Supreme Court intervention.
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